Ever notice how making changes around your home can give you a fresh outlook on life? That’s the premise behind a new HGTV show, “Build Me Up,” starring interior designer Orlando Soria.
In the series, Soria (whom you may recognize from his previous gigs on “Unspouse My House” and “Secrets From a Stylist”) helps homeowners who’ve undergone a big life change such as divorce or death in the family. Through home design, he helps them hit the reset button.
We talked with Soria about the healing potential of interior design, and heard his top tips for creating a happy home environment.
How did you get started in interior design?
I spent my entire life designing spaces without really knowing it. My first “design” memory is painting my bathroom when I was around 7. My parents let me paint it whatever color I wanted. My memory is that I did it myself, though looking back I must have had help.
Which colors did you choose?
Peach, pink, and turquoise. I realized my mistake immediately and learned an important lesson: Just because you like a color doesn’t mean it belongs on your wall. I learned you kind of have to pick your battles and allow certain parts of the room to shine while others create the palette.
Starting early gave me a foot up when I started professionally designing 10 years ago. I just kept doing it and eventually realized, “Hey, I am naturally good at this and I’ve been doing it instinctively my whole life—why not make it a career?” Ultimately that led to my show “Build Me Up.”
Why do you think home design is so important to your clients?
Through working with clients on “Build Me Up,” I’ve seen just how powerful a home transformation can be for a client, how it can take someone who’s feeling down in the dumps and make them feel like they have another shot at happiness. It sounds simplistic, but having a beautiful home can be really healing for someone going through a trauma.
Have you ever changed your own space during a big transition?
During my last breakup, I moved from a home I’d renovated with my ex into an apartment. My old place had been sleek and contemporary. For my new apartment, I wanted a space that had more history and character, so I chose a beautiful French chateau–style building. The style of it was such a departure. And it gave me so many opportunities to explore new aspects of my design personality.
What did you learn during that time?
I learned that there are a lot of great things about designing a space on your own: You don’t have to worry about the needs or desires of anyone else. You can be kind of selfish, and that’s so fun. And the design process is a distraction. Instead of thinking about everything in your past, you’re thinking about the future, what you’ll do in your new space, who will be there with you, and what types of activities you want to do there. All that forward thinking is such a positive experience and helps you move on.
That’s why I wanted to make “Build Me Up.” I wanted to pay forward the positive elements of my postbreakup home makeover to other people and, in doing so, help them heal from whatever might be troubling them.
For those on a budget, what rooms or home features should homeowners start with?
I always tell people to spend money on things you notice, things you touch, places where your eye naturally goes when you enter a room. So I like to give people the advice of changing out their door hardware, light fixtures, faucets, and things like that.
Do you have any advice for people just starting their home design journey?
My advice to people getting started with designing a space is to make one decision first without worrying about the rest of the room. I think people get overwhelmed by thinking about everything at once, and then get so crippled with fear that they can’t make any decisions.
What happens after you make that first design decision?
All the other decisions get so much easier. For example, if you pick a blue rug, you know what sofa can go with that, what coffee table will contrast nicely. Make one decision based on a foundational piece you love, and the rest will get way easier.
What advice would you give people for making design changes on their own during quarantine?
You can do so much without leaving the house, it’s amazing! I’ve been doing a ton of indoor gardening, ordering plants and pots online, and it’s added so much life to my home. Making small changes can really make a difference.
I also swapped out my bedding, and my bedroom felt completely different. Even just getting new tea towels in the kitchen refreshes the room. It doesn’t have to be a full-on overhaul to make your home feel revived.
What home design mistakes do you see most often?
Scale is the No. 1 issue I see in clients’ houses. Usually it’s that they buy furniture that’s too big in hopes that it will make their house feel “luxe.” It usually does the opposite and just makes their house feel tiny. Trust me, a smaller sofa in a smaller living room looks a lot better than a huge one you can’t walk around.
How can you make sure a new furniture piece will be the right size?
Look up an item’s proportions online and use blue painter’s tape to dimension them out onto the floor. Or you can buy butcher block paper and cut out the footprint of your furniture to see where it might fit.
How do you feel looking back on the projects you did for ‘Build Me Up’?
I could not be prouder of this show. Our goal with every episode was to make our homeowners really happy and to change their lives. When you see it, you’ll see that people really do change from start to finish.
I think right now, more than ever, it’s just nice to see people taking care of each other, listening, and helping each other through challenges.